U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich are spearheading an effort with 16 of their colleagues to expand comprehensive school-based mental health services for children.
The Mental Health in Schools Act would authorize funding for grants to schools and other mental health centers to partner with community-based organizations to expand access to services for students.
"Removing the stigma around mental illness and making treatment available at early ages is critical to raising a stable and productive society," said Udall. "Young people -especially in rural areas - can have a difficult time getting access to treatment and our bill would help identify issues early and ensure that students can overcome them."
"Too many young people who suffer from mental illness never receive the support and services they need," said Heinrich. "This bill would change that. By expanding comprehensive school-based mental health services, students will be more likely to seek help and get the care they deserve to live healthier lives."
The Mental Health in Schools Act would establish a grant program that would:
* Expand access to mental health services in schools;
* Support schools that work with community-based organizations to expand access to mental health services for students;
* Provide assistance through grants to schools to train staff, volunteers, families, and other members of the community to recognize the signs of behavioral health problems in students and refer them for appropriate services; and
* Authorize $200 million in grant funding per year over five years, and eligible schools may apply for up to $1 million per grant year, based on the size of their student population.
In 2010, New Mexico had the fifth-highest rate of youth suicide in the country.
The Mental Health in Schools Act is supported by numerous organizations, including the National Alliance for Mentally Ill-New Mexico, the New Mexico Psychological Association and the New Mexico Association of Elementary School Principals.